Recently Read: A Little True Crime, a Little Women’s Fiction

I’ve been reading more than just my favorite Swedish crime novelists in the last month. I’ve tried more than one true crime book and a new book by Elizabeth LaBan which I think gets categorized as women’s fiction. The result is that I want to get back to mysteries, I think: true crime makes me feel too much of a gawker, and this particular LaBan book made me yearn for a conflict that did not involve the two main characters not really communicating with each other.

good nurseMy latest true crime audiobook was The Good Nurse: A True Story of Madness, Medicine, and Murder by Charles Graeber. It’s about nurse Charles Cullen, who is allegedly the most prolific serial killer in the United States though he has admitted to a much smaller number of murders. He worked at a number of hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, left after suspicious incidents at a number of hospitals, and finally admitted to killing a number of patients at more than one hospital. The most in-depth part of the story was about what the hospitals did and didn’t do when they suspected Cullen of being connected to a number of deaths, not the story of why Cullen murdered so many patients. I skipped over a good chunk of the Afterword, which recounted the legal saga of Cullen trying to get permission to donate a kidney while he was in prison. It felt a bit too gawkerish to me. I basically turned to Wikipedia to find out if the donation went through and finished the book.

restaurant critics wifeAfter Cullen I needed to read a book without any murders, so I picked up The Restaurant Critic’s Wife by Elizabeth LaBan. It’s a book about a struggling mother adjusting to parenting two kids and moving to a new city where her husband, a newspaper restaurant critic becomes increasingly paranoid about preserving his and his wife’s anonymity. The setpieces of Sam, the critic, in disguise where in part fascinating and in part ridiculously funny, but ultimately I was frustrated with the conflict in the book boiling down to the couple not talking to each other. They talked around each other, and I tend to gravitate toward stories that do more than that.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of The Restaurant Critic’s Wife from the publisher.


My First Audiobook in Ages: Columbine by Dave Cullen


I started giving audiobooks a try at the end of December. A book ten years in the making by an investigative journalist from the Denver area doesn’t quite sound like festive reading, or listening, but I was fascinated by the book and I didn’t mind speeding up the narration a bit on my phone to make it pass a bit more quickly. My general problem with nonfiction is that I lose my attention span after awhile. Audio helped me with that problem because I could focus for a set amount of time, speed up the narration a bit if I wanted, and generally not get bogged down as I do with print nonfiction.

But on to the book: Columbine has been on my TBR list for quite some time. I knew that it uncovered a few myths perpetuated by the media about the school shooting and the school shooters, but I didn’t know much else going in. It was a fascinating story about just how wrong the wall-to-wall media coverage was about the killers as well as the martyr Cassie Bernall. It was fascinating to follow people like Fusilier, the FBI agent who was a hostage negotiator and who became an expert on psychopaths. The psychological profiling of psychopaths in Columbine was more in-depth than anything I’ve found in fiction about psychopaths. I didn’t care as much for all the excerpts of the murderer’s websites, videos, and diaries, and I think that was because it felt repetitive.

One thing I left the book with is not missing cable television and local news. I watch bits and pieces of breaking news events, but I don’t read nearly as much or watch as much as I used to. Now I don’t think I’m missing much except predetermined narratives, as the book explained in stark relief.

This book did not make me an audio convert or a nonfiction audio convert, but I think I’ll try a few more audio books just to add a bit of variety. Recommendations welcome!


Columbine by Dave Cullen

Blackstone Audio, March 2010

I borrowed this book from the library.